• Panel has many Fukushima questions
     | July 18,2013

    BRATTLEBORO — Entergy Nuclear has purchased a list of new equipment that is “10 pages long” to deal with post-Fukushima issues at its Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant, an Entergy engineer told the Vermont State Nuclear Advisory Panel on Wednesday.

    But panel members were not happy when they learned that while Vermont Yankee’s storage pool for its highly radioactive nuclear fuel was being evaluated for new and “unanticipated” threats, including new flooding and seismic threats, its dry cask facility was not.

    Vermont Yankee, like 22 other U.S. nuclear reactors, shares the same containment design as the Fukushima plants in Japan.

    Leslie Kanat, a professor of geology at Johnson State College and a panel member, had questions about the dry cask facility, which is just north of the Vermont Yankee building.

    Entergy Nuclear engineer Bill Buteau said the dry cask facility had been analyzed and “is not a problem.”

    But Kanat noted that in recent years an earthquake had moved dry casks at other nuclear power plants, later saying that Entergy was ignoring the dry cask issue.

    “Dry cask is not in the scope,” Buteau responded.

    Buteau said the overall goal of the post-Fukushima work was to ensure the safety of the spent fuel in the spent fuel pool, making sure it was covered with water, as well as protecting the public.

    Buteau said the hydrogen gas explosions at the Fukushima reactors were caused because the spent fuel was not covered with water and the fuel heated up. He said that to address the potential loss of water at Yankee’s spent fuel pool, a special access has been established to the reactor building for special water hoses that have been purchased.

    He said additional pumps had been purchased and that some of the equipment would be stored on site and some at an Entergy warehouse in Brattleboro.

    But he reminded the panel there was a 1 million gallon reservoir dedicated for emergency cooling underneath the plant’s cooling towers.

    Buteau said the Nuclear Regulatory Commission was individualizing its requirements for each nuclear power plant in its post-Fukushima plans.

    Members of the panel had many unanswered questions for Entergy Nuclear staff about the changes being adopted at Vermont Yankee, and Entergy refused to answer questions posed by members of the public at the meeting.

    Christopher Recchia, commissioner of the Department of Public Service and chairman of the panel, had a series of questions for Buteau, many of which Buteau could not or would not answer.

    “Obviously, we’re going to have a lot of questions for you,” Recchia told Buteau after an hourlong presentation.

    Vermont’s radiological health chief, William Irwin, said Entergy’s post-Fukushima plan, which was submitted to the NRC earlier this year, was short on details about providing emergency water.

    Irwin pointed out that was a serious problem in Japan.

    Entergy is currently installing a third backup diesel generator as part of the post-Fukushima planning. Trans-Canada, the owner of the Vernon hydroelectric dam, last year informed Entergy it would no longer provide emergency backup power to Vermont Yankee, which set off the need for the third diesel generator.

    The meeting started off rough, as anti-nuclear activist Gary Sachs repeatedly interrupted with comments and questions. Recchia gave Sachs several warnings but after several interruptions told Brattleboro Police to remove Sachs.

    Recchia stopped the meeting and talked with Sachs in the hallway. Sachs left, and the meeting resumed without incident.

    susan.smallheer@ rutlandherald.com

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